Belfast Telegraph

Red-faced Blues plan to enjoy the last laugh - hero Stafford

Linfield’s Mark Stafford
Linfield’s Mark Stafford

By Steven Beacom

Linfield hero Mark Stafford has revealed that those laughing at the Blues following their humiliating Irish Cup exit to Queen's drove them on to a crucial victory over Cliftonville and will remain a motivating factor for the champions for the rest of the season.

Earlier this month, Stafford conceded the penalty that led to an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Championship outfit Queen's but on Monday night he showed immense character to come off the bench and deliver a steely defensive display and score the winning goal in an important 2-1 league success at Solitude.

The result moved David Healy's men above Glentoran and Cliftonville to the top of the Irish Premiership table on goal difference.

Payback for the Queen's result is far from over though. That will only come if Linfield go on and claim the Gibson Cup with centre-back Stafford fiercely determined to do all he can to make it back-to-back title triumphs.

"After we lost to Queen's there were a lot of people laughing at our expense because it was such a bad result for us. We knew we had to fight back," stated the Fermanagh man.

"Going to Cliftonville was very tough but we dug in and battled hard to get the win. The defeat at Queen's and the reaction from others was a driving force at Solitude and we will use it for the rest of the season as well.

"I felt a lot of responsibility for the Queen's defeat because ultimately I gave away their winning penalty so I was pleased to get on the pitch on Monday to pay something back to the manager and the players.

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"We know we have to keep going though and keep fighting hard to try and win the title again. I believe we are all ready for the battles ahead."

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